Now, I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of culture shocks in Japan. But having worked in banking back home, I don’t think even the Delorean itself could have quite prepared me for the Back to the Future experience of the Japanese Banking system.
ATMs that close on weekends(especially difficult in Oki without a Conbini in sight), Banks that close at 3 and Kanji, Kanji everywhere. However, after a while I didn’t quite get my Hoverboard but I came up with some ways of working the system. This is sharing some tips that have helped me during my time in Japan. Disclaimer; The following is what has worked for me and I can’t guarantee that all information is 100% accurate, or the best for you it’s simply my own personal experiences.
Most JETs in Shimane signed up with either San-In Godo (nicknamed Gougin) Bank or JP Post account shortly after arrival. However, these banks have limited services and it can be a good idea to sign up with a second bank for travelling overseas, shopping online or simply to have a seperate account to put savings in.
Now, I think it’s about time I got a commission from this company for how much I’ve plugged their services during my time on JET but they are probably the best bank I’ve come across in Japan. They still won’t offer you a credit or debit card but have Internet Banking available in English, free withdrawals from JP Post and Conbini ATMs, Overseas ATM withdrawals and a 24/7 English helpline. The best part is you can sign up without ever entering a branch; sign-up online, receive the forms; inkan and photocopy your ID and post it back. They also have a free online transfer per month. This means if you sign up with TransferWise (see below) you can transfer money home without leaving your kotatsu in the winter months.
Japan Net Bank
Japan NetBank, is an entirely online bank. You can sign up for all within the comfort of your home, simply fill out the online form, download the app and take a photo of your Health Insurance Card or Drivers Licence and enjoy! Japan NetBank doesn’t have the free withdrawals or English support of Shinsei but they do have a Visa debit card which is really useful for travelling or online shopping. And the Japanese on their website and app is not too tricky, it’s mainly N4 level Kanji and Katakana.
Transferring money home
Many JETs can be quite evangelical when it comes to there choice of remittance provider. I’m no exception. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure you are intimate with any fees that your bank in Japan charges, that the remittance agent charges and any fees your bank in your home country may charge. Also, remember the fundamental truth; If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s important to understand that almost all providers effectively charge you two fees; their advertised fee and their cut on the market exchange rate. Many remittance agents say they charge ‘zero fees’ but in reality they will make up the difference (and then some) by offering a much lower exchange rate than the market exchange rate.
It is also important to check with you bank back home any fees they may charge for incoming transfers. Sometimes, intermediary banks are used particularly if you use a smaller bank back in your home country that may also charge fees.
The four most common remittance methods that JETs use are; JP Post, Go Remit, TransferWise and Paypal. I’ll go over them one-by-one.
JP Post (ゆうちょ銀行)
JP Post, has slightly worse exchange rates than the others mentioned here and they are not included in the comparison below (as they don’t advertise their information online). But, unlike GoRemit and TransferWise you don’t need to sign up beforehand and can show up at the Post Office and send your money the same day. Make sure to bring the following with you;
-2,000-2,500 yen transfer fee(Note: May vary slightly from country to country)+ transfer amount in cash if you’re not a JP customer (most branches have an ATM right outside the Post Office).
-ID; MyNumber notification paper and Residence Card/Passport. I’ve seen conflicting points online, but just to be safe bring a recent utility bill with your address and name on it too.
You will need to fill out a bi-lingual form(ask for a Kouza ate soukin (口座あて送金) form) and have all your bank details from your home country (including the SWIFT/IBAN code and your Branch Address and number etc.)
This is a Telegraphic Transfer, and fees may be charged by your bank by your home country in addition to the fees mentioned above.
GoRemit (formerly known as GoLlyods), is owned by Shinsei bank. And the application process is almost identical to Shinsei. You sign up online(all in English), receive the forms and then post back with photocopies of your ID, your bank information back home, proof of address(a recent utility bill) and your inkan. Later in the mail you’ll receive a bilingual letter with GoRemit’s bank details on it via 振込・ふりこみ/furikomi AKA electronic transfer from your bank account to the official Go Remit account. The transfer is done automatically and should take 1-3 business days to reach your account back home. GoRemit take a flat 2,000 yen fee deduction and your bank back home as well as intermediary banks may also take a deduction. Contact your bank in your home country for information about incoming telegraphic transfer fees.
TransferWise is the new kid on the block. They have a sliding fee scale depending on how much you’re sending. Often their fees may appear more expensive than their competitors BUT they offer market exchange rates making them more competitive(see the table below). To sign up, you can do it entirely online using your webcam or phone to take photos of your identity information(Residence card, My number notification card etc.). After that it’s just a few days until you get your notification card in the mail, enter this information online and you’re ready to go. Just write down the information and transfer the funds to TransferWise via Furikomi. Like GoRemit, you may have to pay a transfer fee to your Japanese Bank. However, unlike GoRemit the money is received in your home country from a domestic bank account (ie. An American will receive the amount from an American bank account etc.) this means in most circumstances(unlike GoRemit) you will not pay a fee to your bank in your home country for receiving funds.
TransferWise also offer a generous referral system, that gives you a credit on your first transfer as well as a reward to whoever refers you. However, you must follow the referral link from the start. Ask an existing customer for a referral link if you wish to sign up.
To use GoRemit and TransferWise you’ll need to do a Furikomi or bank transfer. You can do this via an ATM(see this English guide here) or take the info you receive from the bank into a branch yourself or ask to do a 振込・ふりこみ。Furikomi or electronic transfer. Go Remit send you a bi-lingual letter whereas TransferWise have bi-lingual e-mail you can print off. Make sure to bring the bank details for GoRemit or TransferWise with you and include your customer ID.
Note; Your bank will charge you a fee(unless you use Shinsei, see above), San-In Godo the bank that most JETs use charges about 500 yen (varies on the amount of the transaction). Just to be clear, this transfer is a domestic transfer to a holding account in Japan, which from there is transferred to your account in your home country. Avoid say you are doing an international transfer, as you will likely confuse the staff.
PayPal is not a remittance service however, it is often sited by some JETs as a good option because there are ‘zero fees’. However, that excludes the large chunk that PayPal often takes from the exchange rate.
Take a look at the comparison below. This does not include the fees you may pay for electronic transfers within Japan or what you may pay in your home country as this varies from situation to situation. But for sending a month of your first-year salary pre-tax this should give you an idea of how much you should expect to receive;
|5th Aug 2016||Transfer Wise||Go Remit||PayPal|
|Rates(JPY per USD)||101.01||102.40||108.70|
|USD amount received||$2,739.01||$2,714.84||$2575.00|
|5th Aug 2016||Transfer Wise||Go Remit||PayPal|
|Rates (JPY per NZD)||72.46||74.75||78.10|
|NZD amount received||3,812.86||3,719.06||$3584.90|
Finally, a word of warning exchange rates fluctuate a lot. Do not expect to receive the same amount. I would also say avoid the logic of the rate has gone down it must go back up, no one knows for sure what the rate will do. I recommend sending a fixed amount back every few months, and absorbing both the gains and losses of the exchange rates rather than take a risk on the future rates.